THE ninth round is upon us and things are starting to get serious in Men’s 1.
Sydney Olympic is top of the table, but with washouts coming into play, there are a number of teams well and truly in the mix at the pointy end.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
Blacktown City FC v Sydney Olympic, 3pm Sunday at Lilys Football Centre
Third hosts first in this week’s Match of the Round, as Blacktown City host Sydney Olympic.
Blacktown City’s unbeaten run was shattered a fortnight ago at Lilys in the round 7 Match of the Round against Manly United, but they did bounce back by thrashing the hapless Marconi Stallions 5-0 at Valentine Sports Park last weekend.
This will obviously be a far sterner test than that, and Mark Crittenden will hope to prove the loss to Manly was only a minor aberration.
Sydney Olympic meanwhile, is the only team still unbeaten after the first two months of the season.
Grant Lee’s side have won five and draw two, and are looking in ominously good form as the season really starts to get going.
They are scoring goals for fun and are generally tight at the back, which usually makes for a winning combination. If they maintain their unbeaten run here, they will be very pleased with their work.
ROUND 9 PREVIEW
Blacktown Spartans v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 7.30pm Saturday, at Blacktown Football Park
Spartans looked down and out last week against Sydney Olympic, but the fight they showed their will give plenty of encouragement to coach Ben De Haan and his players.
From 4-1 down, Spartans quickly made it 4-3, and they certainly had their chances to steal a share of, if not all, the points.
Their decent form of late sees them in seventh place on the ladder, firmly entrenched in the fast developing mid table cluster.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles could get used to playing fortnightly, especially given the while weather that has hampered Sydney in the past few weeks.
Their match against Parramatta FC last weekend was washed out, but that won’t concern Brian Brown, who will have the White Eagles in tip-top shape for this one.
Their loss to South Coast Wolves is only a distant memory now, and they will be keen to get back on the horse in Rooty Hill.
Parramatta FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 7.30pm Saturday, at Melita Stadium
Parramatta FC will have spent their week off planning for this big match against second placed APIA at Melita Stadium.
Parramatta still only have one win this season, and they come up against an APIA side which has lost only once.
The Tigers were too good for South Coast Wolves in torrential conditions last weekend, winning 3-0. Blake Powell kept up his remarkable record of scoring in every match this season (11 goals in eight games) and only a fool would back against him finding the back of the net again.
A first clean sheet of the season and a settled back four means APIA will be coming in with plenty of confidence.
Sutherland Sharks v Marconi Stallions, 7.30pm Saturday, at Seymour Shaw Park
Sutherland Sharks proved too good in the battle of the beaches last weekend against a weary Manly United, and after their big win against Rockdale City Suns the weekend previous, they look to be coming into some form.
Steve Hayes’ form has been a major boost for Steve O’Connor’s side, and the return of Perry Moustakas at the back will go a long way to shoring up their defence.
Young defender Jacob Tratt has had an eye for goal of late, and is a threat from set pieces.
The Stallions woeful run continued as they were pasted by Blacktown City last weekend.
It is hard to see how they will claw their way out of the mire, and they have 26 goals in eight games, six more than the next worst defensive team, the South Coast Wolves.
Goalkeeper Sam Nastic has been a rare bright spark, but he has had so many shots to face this season, he will be very keen for a quiet day sometime soon.
Sydney United 58 FC v Manly United, 3pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
Both sides are coming off losses in this one, so expect there will be a decent tempo as both sides go out looking to make amends.
United 58 led twice against Rockdale City Suns last weekend but contrived to lose that one 4-2. Mark Rudan will be disappointed his side didn’t kill off the game in the first half, when they had a few decent chances to turn their 1-0 lead into 2-0. In fact, were it not for Suns’ keeper Tomislav Arcaba, the game would probably have been over.
But they will not want to dwell on that too much, and with 21 goals in eight games so far this season the Reds know the chances will come. Robbie Mileski, Panni Nikas, and Chris Triantis are all goal threats and Manly will be wary.
The northern beaches side were tired and far from their best as they went down to Sutherland Sharks at home last weekend. A third match of the week proved a bridge too far for Manly, but with a full preparation this time around they will be hopeful of giving things a shake at Edensor Park.
South Coast Wolves v Rockdale City Suns, 3pm Sunday, at WIN Stadium
Wolves and Rockdale come into this one having recently picked up their first wins of the season and hopeful of better things to come.
Wolves knocked off Bonnyrigg a fortnight ago, only to go down to APIA Leichhardt last weekend. They were far from disgraced though and in terrible conditions the match became a bit of a lottery at times.
They will fancy their chances at home to the Suns, who finally broke their duck in their fantastic 4-2 win over Sydney United 58 at Seymour Shaw.
Player/assistant coach Paul Reid clearly has the respect of the squad and that much was evident in the celebrations post game. If they can make it two on the bounce, their season could be belatedly underway.
– by Matthew Lopez, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor